King Harshavardhan was one of the most efficient rulers who unified the north of India into one single segment after the decline of the Gupta Empire. He ruled India for a time period of forty years. He was also known as simply Harsha. His father was Prabhakar Vardhan and his brother was the king of Thanesar, Rajyavardhan. Harshavardhan unified the whole of northern India that includes central, western and parts of Deccan plateau. Read the life history of Harsha Vardhana in this short biography.
Prabhakar Vardhan was the initial ruler of the Vardhan dynasty and established his capital at Thanesar located in Kurukshetra. His elder son, Rajyavardhan succeeded him after his death. However, he too was killed in a battle against Devagupta, a ruler who had killed husband of his sister. The throne could not remain empty, so everyone decided to appoint young Harshavardhan as the king. Thus, Harsha became the ruler at the tender age of 16! Even at this young age, he proved himself to be an able ruler and gained fame and fortune at a very young age.
He first stopped his sister from committing the Sati, a ritual where the wife is supposed to die along with her deceased husband in the pyre. He then merged the kingdoms of Kannauj and Thanesar and made Kannauj his capital city. He was an efficient warrior and won many battles against different rulers. He spread his territory rapidly across the Gangetic plain conquering the states of Haryana, Kannauj, Bengal, Gujarat and Bihar. He also conquered some parts of Orissa.
Harsha was a distinguished and creative patron of religions and the arts. He lavished gifts on Buddhist institutions, and it is clear that he was profoundly influenced by Buddhist thought and practices. Still, there is no evidence that he became a Buddhist; rather it would seem that he remained a devotee of Shiva. Late in his life he may have become more concerned with the prosperity of Buddhist institutions as he emulated the manner of Asoka Maurya.
There are many written evidences of the reign of Harsha. These were compiled by the poets Hieun Tsang and Bana. When Harsha came to power, Bana composed it by the name of Harshacharita. The Buddhist pilgrim Hieun Tsang also wrote a full description about the empire of Harshavardhan. He was a very learned man and also wrote three famous plays named Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarshika. Harshavardhan was probably the last empire builder of ancient India. The mighty emperor breathed his last in 647 A.D. and his empire died with him.